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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

10 stupid things that keep churches from growing

Geoff Surratt has written a great book called, "Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing: How Leaders Can Overcome Costly Mistakes."

Here's the list of ten stupid things, and my comments under each one.

1. Trying to do it all.

Our desire is to reach everyone for Christ. The reality is, however, that we have a specific niche in the body of Christ. We have a specific calling. We can't be all things to all people. God has a role for us as a church family. Our role is to provide a balanced, Pentecostal message that appeals to the culture we live in.

2. Establishing the Wrong Role for the Pastor's Family

John Maxwell states, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." One "stupid" thing that churches do is to have the bar raised so high concerning the expectation levels of the pastoral leadership and their family that they either crash and burn or become ineffective.

3. Providing a Second Rate Worship Experience

Worship is huge in the culture we live in. People want to experimentally connect with God. Second rate doesn't necessarily mean unprofessional, but uncaring, sloppy, apathetic. All worship must be run by prayer and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

4. Settling for Low-Quality in Children's Ministry

What is the way to reach the community we are moving to on 183rd street? Reaching families. Reaching the children in those family.

5. Promoting Talent Over Integrity

We must also emphasize character over giftedness. Always.

6. Clinging to a Bad Location

Moving to a spot right on highway 80 helps!

7. Copying Another Successful Church

We must be Stone Church. We must be ourselves. We can't be Parkview church or Family Harvest. We must be ourselves and seek God's continual will for our lives.

8. Favoring Discipline Over Reconciliation

Our church is a hospital for the hurting, not a prison for the offenders.

9. Mixing Ministry and Business

Some folks read and pay attention more to the church constitution than God's Word. Our focal point must always be, "how does this encourage and promote ministry," rather than, "is it in the budget," or "how does it fit into church policy"?

10. Letting Committees Steer the Ship

If there is was a "stupid" thing to prohibit church growth - it is this one. Committees are the "death rattle" of a church that is dying. We must continually stress participating in ministry (life groups and ministry programs) rather than sitting around a room talking about what must be done.

May God help us to side step and avoid these 10 major mistakes!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Generational views of charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity

George Barna's group recently put out a study exploring the degree to which four different generations of American adults identified themselves as charismatic or Pentecostal believers.

Their research examined generational gaps in terms of beliefs about the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and spiritual gifts.

Let me quote from their findings:

"Those fitting the Pentecostal/charismatic criteria stated that they considered themselves to be in that category of believers, said they believe that they “have been filled with the Holy Spirit,” and that God has given them at least one of the charismatic gifts, such as tongues, prophecy, or healing. Overall, that group represents 21% of all American adults and 25% of those who describe themselves as Christian.

Baby Busters (ages 26 to 44) were the generation of self-identified Christians most likely to claim a charismatic or Pentecostal connection (29%), slightly higher than the 26% among the Mosaics (ages 18 to 25) and the 25% among the eldest of Americans (25% among those 64 and older). Surprisingly, the generation that introduced America to “Jesus freaks” and other marks of spiritual intensity – i.e., Baby Boomers (now 45 to 63) – is the generation currently least likely to identify as charismatic or Pentecostal (20%).

In terms of beliefs and attitudes, there are marked differences between the generations. In general, the research shows that younger Christians are more open to charismatic gifts, but more skeptical about the nature of the Holy Spirit when compared to older Christians.

Christians aligned with the two youngest generations - the Mosaics (56%) and Busters (49%) - were more likely than were Boomers (44%) or Elders (30%) to believe that “the charismatic gifts, such as tongues and healing, are active and valid today.” However, age was a less consistent indicator of people’s awareness of spiritual gifts. Mosaic Christians were the most likely to be aware of such gifts, while Buster Christians the least aware age group.

Regarding the best-known and most controversial of the charismatic gifts, the spiritual prayer language known as speaking in tongues, younger Christians were more likely to believe that tongues are “valid and active today.” In total, 43% of Mosaics and Busters believe either that God provides every Christian with the ability to speak in tongues or that God gives the gift to some but not to others. This compares to 37% among Boomers and Elders combined. Still, this does not necessarily translate into greater personal participation in speaking in tongues among young believers; just 7% of Mosaic Christians and 9% of Buster Christians had ever spoken in tongues, compared to 13% of Boomer believers and 9% of Elder Christians.

The four generations also demonstrated contrasting perspectives about the Holy Spirit. Despite their skepticism about the charismatic and Pentecostal expressions of Christianity, older believers stood out from younger Christians for their likelihood of saying that they “consistently allow their lives to be guided by the Holy Spirit.” Elders (64%) and Boomers (59%) outpaced Busters (54%) and Mosaics (38%) on this viewpoint.

In spite of their openness to the charismatic and Pentecostal elements of the Christian faith, the youngest believers offered an unexpected, existentialist view of the Holy Spirit. In total, 68% of Mosaic Christians said they believe that the third person of the trinity is just “a symbol of God’s power or presence, but is not a living entity.” This compares to 59% of Busters, 55% of Boomers, and 56% of Elders who believe the Holy Spirit is merely symbolic.

Younger Christians were more likely than older believers to “sense that God is motivating people to stay connected with him, but in different ways and through different types of experiences than has been the case in the past.” A majority of Busters (52%) strongly embraced this perspective, while Boomers (43%) and Elders (39%) were less likely to do so."

Now then, the very fact that the Barna group even attempted to do such a study is meaningful to me. I believe it shows that we as Pentecostals are making an impact in our culture, especially in the religious culture of America.

Let me break down their observations from the above data:

The Charismatic and Pentecostal community, by the sheer size of its numbers, has established itself as a group with significant social and spiritual force.

Generational changes and the diffusion of Pentecostalism across many denominations have made its beliefs, behaviors and identities much less focused.

For millions of younger christian, charismatic, Pentecostal and Spirit-filled labels are not as divisive as they were to their parents' generation.

The next generation of charismatic and Pentecostal Christians will spend less time defending their views to others, but also will be less certain of what they believe or how to put their faith into action.

The premium, and needed focus, will be for theological and spiritual development.

All of this excites me for this reason: As we move out to 183rd street, we are saying to ourselves that we will be a great Charismatic/Pentecostal choice for seekers and churched people looking for a more expressive church home.

May we continue with the vision that God has given us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend (actually the past week):

Debbie and I had a wonderful week of ministry in France this past week. We spend one session encouraging and coaching a group of missionaries who are starting a new church on the west side of Paris.

They were already running into the several roadblocks, the greatest being the French bureaucracy. It's difficult to obtain permits, etc.....

A week ago Sunday, our service was cancelled in Paris. We were disappointed about that. But…………

We contacted one of my missionary friends there who got us a service in a church that we helped start 22 years ago.

It was a very meaningful time for Debbie and I. We came in contact again with people who came to Christ while we were there, one woman, (who was a new Christian then) remembered how I visited her in the hospital 22 years ago. One of the little girls who was healed during that time is now 28 years old and still serving God.

The pastor at the church there – has now been married for 20 some years. While we were pastoring in Paris, on a Sunday morning, I announced their engagement. So….there is a lot of history between the church and us.

Again, I can’t emphasize how meaningful it was – to see the results of our

The Holy Spirit worked it out. I spoke on healing, and the healing line was long……prayed for a little boy who has autism.

We also got to spend some time with George, our son.

It felt "real good" to see how great he is doing. One evening, we had dinner with his host family. Everything was in French. While my French (and Debbie's) wasn't the best, we had a great time sharing with them and getting to know them.

Yesterday, we baptized 3 people in water in our Sunday morning service here at Stone Church. There was a tremendous sense of God's presence. In spite of the fact that I was on jet lag, I felt like God really used the message (although at one point I had the two blind men that were healed by Jesus as lepers).

Having jet lag is just a weird feeling. It's like everything is in a kind of fog.

Michigan State is in the final four! Not having the best team, it shows how good of coach they have in Tom Izzo.

My prediction? Final Game: Duke - Michigan State.

Duke wins (unfortunately) 78 - 62.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crossing guard power

I was driving down 80th street today and came up to a school zone where crossing guards had the traffic stopped as they were leading a group of kids across the crosswalk of the street.

Maybe it is just me, but I had a sense where the crossing guards were taking great delight and relish in using their authority and power. Their look screamed out, "I am in control!" "I love lifting up the 'stop' sign and making you wait"!

Or maybe not.

At any rate, crossing guards do have the authority and power to stop cars.

They don't do so because they have the physical power to do so. However, cars do stop, because the crossing guards hold up a sign and wear a "uniform" given to them by a higher authority.

To fight effectively in the spiritual battle that we are fighting, we must have a right understanding of power and authority in God's kingdom.

Doctor Luke writes in Luke 9:1,2, "When Jesus had called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick."

Jesus gave them power and authority to cure diseases and drive out all demons.

Everyone, according to Acts 1:8, can receive power from the Holy Spirit. Power is the ability, the strength, the might to complete a given task. Authority is the right to use the power of God.

We have been given a "stop sign" and uniform by Jesus. These gifts become effective when we learn to wear and use them correctly.

I encourage you today - in the midst of the spiritual battle that you are waging, take authority over the enemy. Use God's power that is at your disposal.

Be strong. Overcome. Stand strong in Jesus.

For as a believer in Christ, you have power from on high.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

power of laughter

I got an email from a close friend today that shared a story that made me laugh. I love stories where the punchline is not quite evident, the humor is "dry".

I like humorous stories so dry you get thirsty after hearing them. The British have a great way of doing that. Their humor is subtle but effective.

I love to laugh. It just seems like I haven't been able to do a lot of it lately. With all of the busyness of work (relocating the church, ministry - helping and praying with my church family through the pains and sufferings of life) it seems like there hasn't been a whole lot to laugh about.

Yet at the same time, let me remind you, as I have been reminded today, of the power of laughter.

It's been said that the average child laughs 300 times a day and the average adult laughs 15 times a day.

Somehow as we get older, we lose the power of laughter in our lives.

Solomon was right on target when he wrote in Proverbs 17:22, "A merry heart does good, like medicine." Laughter has been shown to have many health benefits, from reducing food cravings to increasing one's threshold for pain. It relieves stress and anxiety and improves your sleep. A good laugh really is good medicine.

Bob Hope made it to his 100th birthday, and so did George Burns. Coincidence? Maybe not, says Michael Irwin of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and former adviser for the federally funded National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Laughter releases endorphins—those 'feel good' hormones suspected of boosting immunity—and that might make you more resistant to disease."

There's also a social component to laughter; it brings people together. C.S. Lewis once said, "There's no sound I like better than adult male laughter." That's because there's nothing better than friends and family coming together to celebrate life and enjoy one another's company.

Last night, after our deacon meeting, Jon, Gary Aldo and I sat (stood) around swapping stories and laughing. As Solomon said, "it's like taking medicine to the gloominess of our souls."

Bonnie Hellum Brechill writes, "Crystal, our 5-year-old daughter, recently met an Amish girl her age. Within a few minutes they were off, hand-in-hand, to play. I caught glimpses of them chattering and giggling. Even though Sylvia, the Amish girl, spoke only a Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, she and Crystal got along well.

Later I asked Crystal, "Could you understand anything Sylvia said to you?"

"No," she replied.

"But you played so nicely together. How?"

"Oh, Mommy, we understood each other's giggles."

I like that.

This Easter season, let's pepper our lives with the joy of the Lord.

Let's celebrate Easter with the rite of laughter.

Joseph Bayly writes:

Christ died and rose and lives.

Laugh like woman who holds her first baby.

Our enemy death will soon be destroyed.

Laugh like a man who finds he doesn't have cancer or he does but now there's a cure.

Christ opened wide the door to heaven.

Laugh like children at Disneyland's gates.

This world is owned by God and He'll return to rule.

Laugh like a man who walks away uninjured from a wreck in which his car was totaled.

Laugh as if all the people in the whole world were invited to a picnic and then invite them.

When you're alone and when you're with friends and family, I encourage you to invest some time in laughter each and every day. You'll find that what Milton Berle said is true: "Laughter is an instant vacation."

You probably need it - and so do I.

Monday, March 15, 2010

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Busy, busy weekend.

Friday afternoon, I drove down to Lincoln, Illinois, to teach a class on First and Second Corinthians. The class is part of the Illinois School Of Ministry (Illinois Assemblies of God District).

I always enjoy the experience, as it gives me a chance to participate in a forum that takes me out of my "box" at Stone Church.

I hear the heart of ministry ordination candidates and "lay people" alike. Great stuff. Great time.

I love sharing my stories - stories that encourage others in ministry.

I applaud the district for promoting and using the Global University courses.

One thing I have to say about my trip - Interstate 55 between Chicago and St. Louis is one of the most boring drives I have ever taken in my entire life. Flat. No scenery. To stay awake, I listened to talk radio....and even at that it was tough.

Sunday topic was "how could a loving God send people to hell"?

One side benefit of speaking on hell - it calls off the "barking dogs" who clamor for a sermon on the subject. I always smile at this as if what is ultimately going to convince someone to have a connection with God is the idea that if they don't, they will end up in a place of fire and brimstone for eternity.

I'm not quite sure that - that is the ultimate motivation that will lead people to Christ.

However, and it is a big HOWEVER, at the end of the second service, 8 or 9 people did raise their hands to say, "please pray for me - I would like to start a relationship with God." Powerful stuff. A wonderful sense of God's presence.

Hell is real. Hell is horrible. Hell is not a place you want to go to.

Yet, as a follower of Jesus Christ, my greater responsibility, when it comes to the subject, is to lead people to Christ.

To paraphrase C.T. Studd, "Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

That speaks to me.

Our church is not a country club. Our church is not a social club. Our church is not a place where people come to watch some good music and applaud and hear the preaching and feel good when they leave. Our church is a place where we take the challenge from Christ seriously, to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

Other quotes from C.T. Studd:

"If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."

"When his critics told him to go home, that he had done enough, he replied, "God has called me to go, and I will go. I will blaze the trail though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow."

May God send us people who feel that intensity in their lives to serve Him.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

embracing the mystery of God

Have you ever met someone that just goes "nuts" if they can't have everything figured out? I have.

Here's what I know - there are some things in life we will never "figure out."

I am convinced that when it comes to the nature and things of God, some things are meant to rest as a mystery.

As I've grown in my faith, I have become at peace with that.

Some would say that - that principle is naive. To be at rest with those things I can't completely understand in the faith. The trinity. The virgin birth. Predestination. On and on it goes.

A lot of energy is given to working toward putting those kinds of concepts into neat little packages so that we call can refer to "the answer."

I'm not disputed the search itself, I'm saying that maybe the reason for such a search is not to get an answer, but to get to know God Himself.

There are many things that I don't understand about Debbie. But I love her with all of my heart. After almost 30 years of marriage, my goal is not to try to "figure her out," but to love her with all of my heart.

Rob Bell has written:

"As one of my friends often says: "If you study the Bible and it doesn't lead you to wonder and awe, then you haven't studied the Bible."

The very nature of orthodox Christian faith is that we never come to the end. It begs for more. More discussion, more inquiry, more debate, more questions.

It's not so much that the Christian faith has a lot of paradoxes. It's that it is a lot of paradoxes. And we cannot resolve a paradox. We have to let it be what it is.

Being a Christian then is more about celebrating mystery than conquering it.

The Easter church father Gregory of Nyssa talked about Moses' journey up Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. When Moses enters the darkness toward the top of the mountain, he has moved beyond knowledge and the law and to love and to the mystery of God. Gregory insists that Moses has not arrived when he enters the darkness of the mountaintop. His journey and exploration have only really begun."

Can I give you a suggestion? Why not embrace the mystery of God today. And let God love you back.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In the Old Testament, names had a lot of meaning. Parents would name their child according to the characteristics they saw in them, many gave name based upon what they felt God would do in their children's lives.

It's interesting the way we choose names now says in the 21st century. A lot of people name their child based upon a previous name in the family, others based on some popular figure that they admire.

When I was a teenager in high school, there was a younger youngster who's last name was (and I would surmise still is) Duck. You guessed it - his parents named him in Donald Duck.

Other true names I was recently reading about:

Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still.

It sounds like a bad joke, but a study has revealed that there really are unfortunate people with those names in England.

Joining them on the list are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin.

And just imagine having to introduce yourself to a crowd as Doug Hole or Hazel Nutt.

The names were uncovered by researchers from parenting group after trawling through online telephone records.

Retired airman Stan Still, 76, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said his name had been "a blooming millstone around my neck my entire life".

"When I was in the RAF my commanding officer used to shout, 'Stan Still, get a move on' and roll about laughing," he said.

"It got hugely boring after a while."


Rose Bush
Pearl Button
Jo King
Barry Cade
Carrie Oakey
Priti Manek
Tim Burr

Spare a thought for Anna Prentice, Annette Curtain and Bill Board the next time you sign your name.

A string of Americans also have very job-specific names, including Dr Leslie Doctor, Dr Thoulton Surgeon and Les Plack - a dentist in San Francisco.

A spokesman for said: "When the parents of some of those people mentioned named their children, many probably didn't even realise the implications at the time.

"Parents really do need to think carefully though when choosing names for their children.

"Their name will be with them for life and what may be quirky and fun for a toddler might be regretted terribly when that person becomes older or even a grandparent perhaps."

I'm thankful for one name that sees me through all of life - the name of my best friend. Jesus. Name above all names. King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Overcoming injustices

If there is one thing I really like about God (amongst many things) is is that he is willing to do anything possible to help us overcome the world.

Sometimes it is easy to get our focus on the injustices that people do to us, or the injustices that we see happening in the world. And while we do need to work toward overcoming injustice, ultimately our focus must be on God.

Philip Yancey, in his book, "Disappointment with God," writes this:

"Author Henri Nouwen tells the story of a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses.

Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. Enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy's funeral into a huge protest march, but the doctor chose another means of protest.

At the funeral, the father displayed his son's body as he had found it in the jail—naked, scarred from electric shocks and cigarette burns, and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison.

It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display."

Yancey goes on to write, "Isn't that what God did at Calvary? … The cross that held Jesus' body, naked and marked with scars, exposed all the violence and injustice of this world. At once, the cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness, a God of sacrificial love."

I am thankful for the cross today. I am grateful for God's sacrificial love.

"Father, we stand in need of you today. Words can't express our gratitude to you for what you did in sending your Son to die on the cross for us. In the midst of all of the injustices we see and face, in the midst of an unfair world, we know that you are fair and that you are just. Amen."

Monday, March 08, 2010

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Busy, busy weekend.

Friday evening, Debbie and I attended the "Unmasking the Enemy" concert here at Stone Church. Quite lively, upbeat, contemporary music with kind of a Latino flare. Our church was practically full of people worshipping God and seeking him.

It was great to see the youth students of our church at the altar during some of the music, enjoying the presence of God, and expressing themselves as they worshipped Him. It is going to take some time, and teaching, but I believe that we are on the upward swing in seeing our youth breaking out and worshipping God in spirit and in truth!

I understand that 8-10 people turned in decision cards, stating that they would like to have a relationship with Christ. We will be following up on them this week.

Many, many thanks to Edwin Mendez and David Dewes for all of their hard work and time!

Last night at our life group, we continued our discussion of John Ortberg's, "When the Game is over, it all goes back in the box."

We discussed (off of the dvd) the idea of "resigning as master of the board."

Recently I was reading of a billboard that was signed, "God." It read - If you want to make me laugh, tell me your plans."

One of the great illusions we have in life is that we are in control. It is not just a lie, it is as author Ernest Becker called it the "vital lie" because we need it for our egos to survive.

"We have a tough time admitting that we are fundamentally dishonest about reality, that we do not control our lives, that we are always relying on something that transcends us," he writes.

Here's what I know: when things are going well, it's easy to give in to the illusion that we are in control. It's only when things are going bad, that we begin to sense that life is something that is beyond our control. That no matter how much we work at changing difficult situations around us - only God can help.

And...perhpas..that is exactly where God wants us to be. We need to resign as Master of the Board." The Bible's word for this is "surrender."

Surrender means I accept the reality of what is, but know that God can change as situation as I come to him.

What do you need to give to God today? Go to Him and to His word.

Yesterday, I talked about the passages in the Bible that we can go to in time of need. Here is a list that I gave (I was asked by several people to blog the list):

If you need wisdom - Proverbs 4:7,8
If you have difficulty being the spiritual leaders in your home - Deuteronomy 4:9
If you need to make a major career decision - Proverbs 3:5,6
If you need peace within - John 14:27
If you need to forgive - Mark 11:25
If your child is sick - Psalms 103:2,3
If you job is unsatisfying - Psalms 32:8
If you need motivation - Deuteronomy 31:6
If your child is rebellious toward you - Exodus 4:12
If you child is rebellious toward God - Malachi 4:6
If you need to overcome anger - Ephesians 4:26
If you need peace within - John 14:27
If you need to make a major career decision - Proverbs 3:5,6
If you need to overcome - Romans 8:37-39
If you need motivation - Deuteronomy 31:6
If you need to overcome fear - 2 Timothy 1:7
If you need healing - Exodus 15:26
If you need forgiveness - 1 John 1:9
If you need to overcome worry - 1 Peter 5:7
If you need to walk in purity - Psalms 119:11

May you be blessed this week....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

celebrities and taking God for granted

Over the years, I have seen (in person) or met, Reggie White, Kevin Garnett, Jerome Bettis, Joe Jackson (who will be at our church in May - he played for the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets and is now a minister), and now Dan Hampton.

Dan Hampton used to play with the Chicago Bears and is now in the Hall of Fame. His nickname was the "Danimal" because he played with such ferocity. He played on Buddy Ryan's 46 defense that was a huge part of the Bears winning the super bowl in 1985.

6-5, playing weight around 265. Big guy. Big hands.

Well, Dan was at our church the other day for our annual Pinewood Derby event (where the boys and girls from our Impact and Royal Ranger programs make wooden cars and race them). His son attends our Royal Ranger ministry.

Nice guy. Did I say he was big? Big guy.

We talked about football. He told me that the night before he had been at a football banquet with Y.A. Title and I believe Bob Lilly. I could have listened to him talk about football for hours.

Dan played college football at Arkansas with Frank Broyles and Lou Holtz as his coaches.

When I told him I was a die hard Dallas Cowboy fan, his response was, "why"? I guess Mike Ditka scouted him for the Cowboys when Hampton was at Arkansas.

It was fun talking to him. I think we are all a little bit awed when we have a chance to meet celebrities. I know that I was in meeting him.

Did I mention that he is a "big guy"?

However, every time I do meet a celebrity, I can't help but walk away thinking that I have a personal relationship with the biggest celebrity of all time. God.

The creator of the universe. The alpha and omega. No disrespect toward Dan Hampton, but God really is the "big guy" that I long to get to know.

And...I can't help but wondering if we feel that same kind of awe and excitement when we meet with God. Oh, I understand that because we have access to God on a daily basis that we can sometimes take Him for granted.

But perhaps, just perhaps, we can all stop today and lift our voices to God and rejoice that we know the Kings of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Perhaps we can ask the Holy Spirit to renew that sense of awe and excitement, especially as we gather together as a church family this Sunday.

"Father, may we never take you for granted!"

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

We do what we want to do

One of life's lessons is this: we do what we want to do.

"I can't do this," or "I can't go there," or....we do what we want to do.

Oh, I know that there are mitigating circumstances in life that can cross our path and prohibit us sometimes.

But most of the time, we do what we want to do.

I always joke that I can be in Target and see someone who goes to our church, and if they haven't come in a while, after I say "hi", they will start the conversation with, "I haven't been in church because." And all I wanted to do was to say, "hi"!

We do what we want to do.

Hebrews 10:24 exhorts us to "...not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing."

Obviously, I think that is a great idea. Don't give us meeting together. Don't hesitate at least once a week in gathering together with other followers of Christ to celebrate, to worship and to seek God.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a Chicago talk radio station (I forget which one) and they were talking about Lent and the church and why they do or don't go to church.

Once again, they came back to the tired, well worn, universal comment, "I don't go to church because all the church wants is my money."

Ugh. After almost 30 years in the ministry, I just kind of let that go "in one ear and out the other." I've heard it so many times, it just sounds like a lot of "white noise," background noise to the flow of life. Blah,blah, blah.

Let's put that into perspective by applying that same kind of logic to sports. A lot of people in our city are sports fans. What if I used the same logic for not going to a sports event, for giving ups sports once and for all, as people do for not going to church?

Think about it.

Here are some excuses that we could use (and that I hear people use for not "meeting together," as the writer to the Hebrews writes) for not attending a baseball game, a football game or a hockey game.

- Every time I went, all they did was asked for money

- The people I sat next to didn't seem friendly

- The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all

- I went to many games but the coach (manager) never came to call on me

- The referees made decisions that I couldn't agree with

- The game went into overtime and I was late getting home

- The band played numbers I'd never heard before and it wasn't my style of music

- It seems the games are always scheduled when I want to do other things

- I suspect that I was sitting next to some hypocrites. They came to see their friends and they talked during the whole game

- I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up

- I hate to wait in the traffic jam in the parking lot after the game

Well, I could go on, but you get the point.

Excuses. Mark Twain once said that an excuse is "the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie."

I hear different excuses for not spending an hour and a half with God - some valid, most pretty lame.

You see - We do what we want to do.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

being at the wrong place at the wrong time

Have you ever been at the "wrong place at the wrong time"?

I was reading today of Tsutomu Yamaguchi. On August 6, 1945, just before the end of World War II, Yamaguchi, a maritime engineer, was in Hiroshima, Japan, on a business trip. At 8:15 in the morning, he heard a bomber fly over the city. Suddenly there was a great flash of light, and he was blown over by a powerful force.

A U.S. bomber had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which killed some 140,000 people. Yamaguchi was not one of them, for he survived the blast, though his face and arms were burned. He also suffered temporary blindness, and his hearing was damaged.

He stayed in Hiroshima that night, and the next day, Yamaguchi was able to travel to return to his home city.

His home city was 190 miles southwest of Hiroshima. His home city was Nagasaki.

Those well-versed in history know that on August 9th, three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, a U.S. bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Again Yamaguchi saw a great flash of light, and the building he was in was blown over. He was knocked unconscious, but was not seriously hurt. This atomic explosion killed some 70,000 people. Once again, however, Yamaguchi was not one of them. Again he lived through an atomic blast.

Interestingly, he is not the only one to have lived through the horrific experience. Although approximately 210,000 died in the bombings, some 260,000 people actually survived the blasts, including 165 people who, like Yamaguchi, were believed to have survived the deadly bombings in both cities. Still, Yamaguchi was the only person officially recognized by the Japanese government as having lived through both.

Now that's what I call being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Do you feel that way today? That you are in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I understand how you feel. Many times in my life I have felt that way. Not frequently, but there have been those seasons.

What's interesting is that our first reaction is to pray, "Lord, get me out of this situation."

"I don't want to be here". "Surely there has got to be something better than this"!

But here's what I know.

During those times and situations, God is at work and God is doing something in me.

He may not change my situation, but he most certainly is at work in me!

God doesn't look down on me when I am in the wrong place at the wrong time and say, "You know what, George, you don't like this. It can't be my will for you, because you are dissatisfied. Wow, what a mistake I have made."

No, that's not the way God feels at all.

Even if I don't like my situation, and even if I am asking to get out of it, there is a sense that God is still there and using it in ways that maybe He couldn't use other things in our lives.

You may feel like you are in the wrong place today - but God can still bring about right things. Be encouraged!

Monday, March 01, 2010

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

We had a great day yesterday. I sensed God's Spirit in a powerful way.

Many people were released from their hurts.

There was only one bump - I told this "joke" in both services and no one laughed.

Let me tell it to you and see if you get it.

It speaks of worry and how worry doesn't help us when we hurt.

The story comes from an Ann Landers column where a woman wrote to her, very worried and distraught. The woman wrote to Ann Landers, "I am worried sick. I"m engaged to be married and I'm so worried because I've just discovered my fiancee has a wooden leg. Do you think I should break it off?"

I thought it was funny. Not many others did, however.

I am also pleased to announce that we have a new team member at our church: Noah Wedan. Noah and his wife Jenni are coming to us from Minnesota, having graduated from Trinity Bible College a couple of years ago.

It's been a busy weekend, as Debbie and I took them downtown and we had a great time eating and walking down Michigan Avenue.

We then showed them around Saturday morning and then they met with our youth leaders on Saturday evening.

Great couple. I love their humility and their desire to draw closer to God. I love their desire to draw close to our students and lead them into a deeper relationship with Him.

We are so excited!

Too bad about the USA hockey team yesterday. I heard it was a great game - didn't see it - but apparently it was a good game.